Over a decade and still counting: Kelantan’s unfinished highwayATHIRA AMINUDDIN ZAIDI AZMI
SHAH ALAM - There’s a highway in Kelantan that spans just slightly over a round-trip from Shah Alam to Sogo, KL which remains incomplete for over a decade.
Yes. You heard that right.
It is called the Kota Bharu-Kuala Krai Highway or KBKK for short.
Valued at RM2.7 billion, the construction of KBKK began in May 2012 where its ground-breaking ceremony was officiated by the then-deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The construction of KBKK is divided into seven small packages and from 2012 to 2023, only two of the seven packages were completed in 2019.
The delay apparently incurred the Kelantan government a total of RM60 million in debt which it was unable to service and has requested for the federal government to step in and essentially bail them out.
On March 20, State Works, Infrastructure, Transport and Utilities Committee chairman Datuk Azami Mohd Nor told the state assembly that the federal government has agreed to take over the sick project.
However, such assistance came with a catch; the federal government does not want to inherit the RM60 million debt in which the Kelantan government is pleading for a reconsideration.
Apart from the costly delay, the KBKK was also mired in controversy, especially in 2022 when the-then Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa sent a “surat sokongan” or letter of support to back a company called Chengaljati Sdn. Bhd.
For the uninitiated, despite him being federal territories minister, Annuar Musa is a Kelantanese, he was the MP for Ketereh – parliamentary constituency in Kelantan –, Chengaljati is a Kelantanese company and KBKK is a project in Kelantan.
Gosh. This whole drama truly brought the famous Kelantanese slogan -- ‘sek kito jange pecoh’ -- to a whole new level.
So, Annuar Musa’s leaked letter of support caused storm because he had asked then-prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to award Chengaljati two packages of the KBKK project via direct negotiation instead of an open tender.
For the record, open tender and direct negotiation are legal and widely practiced procurement methods across the globe but in Malaysia, the latter is dyed in a notorious hue due to it often being associated with political favouritism.
Now back to the KBKK fiasco.
What made Annuar Musa’s letter – dated May 22, 2022 – even more controversial was the fact that it predated the Works Ministry’s official procurement tender date which was July 21, 2022.
Nonetheless, due to the public furore, the tender for the two packages was re-tendered in December 2022, following the rise of Pakatan Harapan – Barisan Nasional government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Also interesting was the fact Chengaljati was one of the main sponsors of the Kelantanese Red Warriors football group back when Annuar Musa was leading the squad circa 2007 – 2010.
So, against the backdrop of this whole debacle, should the federal government take over KBKK and bear its massive RM60 million debts?